Competing proposals could dictate sports betting in Ohio

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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — While questions remain about whether sports betting can be legalized in Ohio without a statewide vote, competing proposals in the Legislature would do just that.

Both spell out how wagers would be taxed, where betting could take place and fees for operators. One big difference is who would oversee all of it.

One of the proposals would put it in the hands of the state commission that oversees casinos while the other would place the lottery commission in charge. Who gets control could shape how the sports betting industry develops in Ohio.

But that’s just one of the many details to be sorted out by lawmakers this year. Here’s a look at both proposals — one from each legislative branch — and what’s ahead:

HOUSE PLAN

The proposal introduced last week calls for allowing sports betting in casinos and racinos, the seven horse tracks in Ohio that also have video slot machines. It also would permit in-person wagers at veterans and fraternal organizations.

While it doesn’t directly address mobile and online gaming, the legislation is written to allow for that once federal courts decide on the issue.

The Ohio Lottery Commission would be in charge and a 10% tax on wagers would go toward school spending and a fund for gambling addiction.

Backers think including the lottery commission gives their proposal a distinct advantage because they say it would satisfy the Ohio Constitution’s narrow limits on legalized gambling.

They point to analysis by the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission that found there’s nothing in the law preventing the lottery commission from operating a sports betting lottery.

“That’s why we went that route,” said Republican Rep. Dave Greenspan, of Westlake. “We believe the lottery is the only legal option.”

SENATE PLAN

Introduced in March, this plan would allow online and mobile betting as well as in-person wagering in casinos and racinos.

“We want to limit the physical locations and adopt a robust and secure online presence,” said Sen. John Eklund, a Republican from Geauga County. “That’s a big difference in the proposals.”

Supervising it all would be the Casino Control Commission.

It makes sense for the commission to regulate sports betting because it already oversees casinos, which are involved with legalized sports gambling in other states, Eklund said.

He dismissed concerns that state law would prevent the casino commission from assuming such a role and doesn’t think the state constitution would need to be amended, as suggested by the Senate President.

Under the plan, operators would pay a 6.25% tax on gross income from all wagers. Where the money would go isn’t specified yet — that would be decided during hearings on the bill.

WHAT’S NEXT

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t playing favorites just yet. While he says he’ll weigh in down the road, he wants all options discussed and details worked out in legislative hearings.

He does, though, think it’s best for lawmakers to decide how to handle sports betting instead of allowing outside groups and business interests to dictate what happens.

One issue expected to be closely debated is where betting should be allowed. Places such as convenience stores, bars, restaurants, and even grocery stores are likely to push for a piece of the action, Greenspan said.

No matter what lawmakers come up with, don’t expect sports betting to bring a huge payout for the state. One state analysis estimates it will raise $30 million a year, but that could double or triple if mobile betting is allowed.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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